by Nick Pullen and Henry Morgan
Travelling the highways and byways of the Internet can expose you
to harmful exploitation. Nick
Pullen, a master cybernaught, suggests you enhance your personal
security and peace-of-mind by
following the "Rules of the Road."
The Internet is a wonderful facilitator. We use it to communicate,
do business, access information,
news and services, and to shop. But the Internet and the
technology which makes it possible also has
a darker side. It enables investigators, fraudsters, marketers,
stalkers, hackers, lunatics and just
plain nosy people, armed with the right equipment and know-how, to
appropriate sensitive data and
confidential information about you, your personal, financial and
professional affairs, whether you
are on or off-line.
This sensitive material can be sold to criminal or commercial
buyers. Or it can be used to damage
you and your personal or commercial interests. It could be used to
blackmail or defraud you. It
could be used by someone wanting to commit crimes in your name. It
could be used to harass you. It
can be added to any dossier being discreetly compiled about you by
just about anybody for just about
any purpose. The Internet could be used by a lunatic or someone
with a grudge trying to track you
"New viruses are released into the public domain all the time."
Fact is, personal data and sensitive information about your
activities and who you are is probably
floating around Cyberspace right now - completely open to access.
Sending emails, posting to news
groups, shopping, and surfing on- line can undermine your
personal, financial and professional
privacy unless you take precautions.
I am not saying that Cyberspace is riddled with demented hackers
or bulging at the seams with
criminal types waiting to target you. But there is an undesirable
element out there. If youíve taken
steps to protect yourself, you can be certain of not falling foul
Use the following techniques to ensure peace-of-mind on- line.
Preparation For On-line Activity
Restrict the flow of sensitive personal data. Your browser can
literally shed information about you.
Unless you take precautions to prevent it, without you knowing,
your browser will simply distribute your email address and other
contact information whilst you are on-line. Protect your main
address: In your browser's Set-up, Options or Preferences menus
donít enter your main email address. Instead set up an alternative
email address free of charge (at http://www.hotmail.com or
http://www.yahoo.com or any of the other on-line email services
offering free accounts). Enter that
address instead. In the same way you must protect your real
identity. In the same browser menus
enter a pseudonym instead of your real name.
Ideally, to protect your main (non-Internet) systems and files
against on-line privacy threats, use
a second computer solely for Internet access and activity.
If you have a personal web page on the Internet donít post
personal information on it. Why give
passing fraudsters, psychopaths or pranksters your home address,
telephone number, or any other
Essential Ongoing Maintenance
Use virus protection software and use it regularly to sweep files
attached to emails and files you
download from the Internet. Use Norton Anti-Virus which can be
http://www.symantec.com. Alternatively, use a free virus scanner
such as AVG, available from
http://www.grisoft.com . Make sure your virus detection software
is up-to-date. New viruses are
released into the public domain all the time. If your software
only deals with viruses up to a
certain date it is not providing adequate protection.
"Many spammers are outright con artists."
A badly configured or maintained computer can reveal sensitive
information about your Internet
activity even when you are off-line. Windows contains a file
called History which acts as a log of
your Internet movements, keeping a record of all the Internet
pages you have visited. This history
file can last for months unless you configure your browser to
prevent this. Go to Tools/Internet
Options and set the days to keep pages in history option to zero
days. Also ensure you regularly
clear the Temp folder and Temporary Internet Files folder which
will be found in Windows.
Periodically open those folders, select their contents and delete.
Strengthen Your Email Security
The three best pieces of advice I can give you about preserving
and protecting your on-line privacy
are as follows. 1: Use encryption. 2: Use encryption. 3: Always,
always use encryption. Why?
Encryption is the most effective defence there is against really
determined hackers, stalkers, and
fraudsters who capture sensitive data by intercepting unencrypted
email and Internet messages. Too
many people still send unencrypted emails containing all manner of
sensitive personal, financial,
and commercial data. Fact: Sending unencrypted email through
cyberspace is like sending a postcard
through the mail system; anybody and everybody can read it. Use
encryption. Which encryption system? PGP encryption is the best
around. Download it free of charge from http://www.pgp.com.
If you ever want to send an email without the recipient knowing
who you are or your email address,
use the Anonymizer remailing service. Send your email to the
remailer which strips your actual name
and email address from the email header and sends it on
anonymously on your behalf. Check this
service out at http://www.anonymizer.com.
Ignore any unsolicited emails you receive. These are sent by
spammers. Never purchase anything from
or send any money or information to a spammer. Many spammers are
outright con artists. If you send
money to them donít expect to see it again, and donít expect to be
supplied with the promised
product or service. Donít even reply to spammers who manage to get
hold of or buy your email
address. Many spammers ask you to send a message back if you want
to be removed from their mailing lists. Donít do this. A return
message will confirm that your email address is in use. This
the value of your address to the spammer. He might well remove you
from his mailing list but he will
sell your details to many other spammers who are sure to target
Posting To News Groups/Chat Groups
Donít reveal personal details to strangers or new friends you meet
on-line. You donít know who
youíre talking to in a chat room. For the sake of security donít
give out your real name, where you
live, where you work, your phone number or any other personal
details which might be used against
you or to track you down.
Messages you post on the Internet or on mailing lists reveal your
email address. This is easily
discovered and either targeted or used by just about anybody.
Services such as Deja News also keeps a record of every posting
ever made by an individual. It is a simple matter for someone to
search Deja News to find out details of postings made from your
email address, which news groups you post to and why. To counter
this, have more than one email address. Set up a free web-based
email service. Use this for posting to news groups, mailing lists,
chat and public rooms. Tip: If no-one
knows that this extra email address belongs to you, no-one can
link you to it or any posting you
make from it. In this way you can post regularly to
alt.sheep.fanciers. without any fear of being
identified by snoops! Use a further clean email address for small
members-only mailing lists and for
communications with known, trusted individuals.
Safe Surfing Techniques
Many free sites require you to register personal details before
you can get access. Just because a
site asks for personal data, it doesnít mean you have to provide
it. You have options. Provide a
phoney name, address, preferences etc. There is no law against
this. Such details are never checked.
They are collected for marketing purposes only. Note: If you
purchase something you must provide
real billing information to avoid claims of fraud.
Beware of sites offering rewards or prizes in exchange for contact
details and other sensitive data.
Youíre unlikely to win a prize and any data obtained in this
manner is sold often to multiple direct
marketers. Pretty soon youíll be deluged with unsolicited email,
post and telephone calls. Protect
your children too. Set clear rules for them. Make sure they know
not to reveal personal information
when they visit sites unless you okay it.
Web sites store bits of data, Cookies, on your computerís hard
drive. Cookies contain your user IDs
and passwords to sites. However, Cookies can also be used to trawl
for data, tracking your surfing,
recording what links and pages you click on, how long you spend on
specific pages. This data is used
to create a profile about you for marketers. Remember that
sensitive information about your Internet
preferences, interests and actions could come back to haunt you.
For protection turn on cookie
notices in your browser. How? Open your Internet browser. Go to
Tools/Options/Security. Press the
Custom Level button. Select prompt for the Cookie options. Now
each time a Web site attempts to
place a cookie on your hard drive youíll receive a warning and
information about the cookie. Decide
whether or not to accept. Only accept cookies from trusted sites.
Decline cookies which are not
temporary or which provide information to sites other than the one
you want to load.
Be anonymous when you surf. How? Use the Anonymizer, a specialised
service which disguises your
identity and on- line movements. Check out: http://www.anonymizer.com
. Alternative anonymising
services you might try: http://www.in.tum.de/~pircher/anonymouse/
; http://www.spaceproxy.com ;
Safe On-line Shopping
Never send credit card details over the Internet without ensuring
that your connection is secure
(encrypted). How to tell? Look for a locked padlock icon at the
bottom right hand corner of your
screen. Or see that the security button on your browser bar is
highlighted. If the connection is not
secure take your business elsewhere. A company that is careless
with your information and money does not deserve your trade.
Before doing business with any site, in case of problems, satisfy
yourself that the site operator
provides off-line contact information including a postal address
and telephone number. Before
ordering, try the phone number to ascertain that it works . Keep a
note of these details.
If the connection is not secure take your business elsewhere.
provide protection for the data you
may submit? If it doesnít, donít release the data.
Many sites display seals or certificates awarded by watchdog
organisations which testify to the
trustworthiness of the site. But there can be problems. You canít
rely on taking seals at face
value. The reason being that con artists fake the seals or
fraudulently post them on their sites.
The solution? Before entering into agreement, contract, or making
any payments on-line, check with
the seal-issuing body that the siteís seal is authentic.
Do the necessary due diligence: Read terms and conditions before
you pay for anything or enter into
an agreement. Make sure you know what youíre getting into. Be
aware of auto- rebilling scams and
Always print out the order form you use on-line and keep any
confirmation of the sale, payment
details and delivery dates you may be emailed.
Find this article of interest? Visit The Freebooter website at
http://www.freebooter.com or contact Henry Morgan at
email@example.com and take advantage of pointers,
tips and articles to help you to remain free. Get his free
newsletter with even more privacy tips, at